How To Dry Mushrooms
Drying mushrooms is very straight forward and can be done a number of different ways for varying budgets.
This is what we will be covering in this “How To” article:
– Why dry mushrooms
– Other benefits of drying mushrooms
– When should you start the drying process
– How do you know when your mushrooms are dehydrated and ready to be stored
– Methods of drying mushrooms
1) Shoebox with desiccant
2) Oven on lowest temperature
– Bonus tip
– How to store mushrooms once you have dried them
– How long will your mushrooms last when dried
– What other options are there for preserving mushrooms
Why dry mushrooms
Drying mushrooms is a must if you want to be able to store them for long periods of time. Your mushrooms, like all food, spoils due to micro bacteria. These micro bacteria require moisture, oxygen and warmth to multiply. If you can eliminate one of those variables you can stop the micro bacteria from multiplying and store your mushrooms for much longer. The variable we are discussing here is moisture. We want to get all the moisture out of the mushrooms to avoid the micro bacteria from developing and multiplying. Mushrooms are about ninety percent water so we have a lot of moisture to remove!
If you dry your mushrooms correctly you can store them for long periods of time.
Other benefits of drying mushrooms
You retain a lot of the nutrition and beneficial compounds. For some mushrooms, like reishi, it is beneficial to be able to dry the mushroom first so that you are able to grind it up and use it in tinctures etc.
Growing mushrooms is one thing but drying mushrooms is another important factor to consider. After spending a lot of time and effort buying the necessary supplies and equipment, diligently making sure you carry out all mycology work in a sanitary environment, and tenderly looking after your mushrooms during the grow, the last thing you want is to end up wasting the “fruits of your labour” because you have grown more than you can utilize right away.
When should you start the drying process
For best results you should decide how many mushrooms you are going to dry straight after harvesting so that you can lock in as many nutrients and compounds as possible. Your mushrooms will start decomposing from the moment they are harvested. This is why the sooner you can start the process of drying the better.
How do you know when your mushrooms are dehydrated and ready to be stored
You know the mushrooms are completely dehydrated when they become “cracker dry” and literally will snap in two when folded.
We will discuss each method available with the pro’s and con’s pointed out.
Shoe box with a desiccant method
All you need for this method is a shoebox (or any box of a similar size), some kitchen towel and desiccant which you can buy here. Desiccant’s are solids that absorb water. The little sachet that you find in the box with a new pair of shoes is desiccant. Make sure to use the food grade desiccant packets. The desiccant absorbs all the moisture that is present in the air. This is why you want to keep the mushrooms contained in a box as there is varying amounts of moisture available in the air in general.
Here are the steps involved. First you want to put a layer of kitchen towel inside the shoe box to help with the absorption of moisture. Then you put your mushrooms as well as the desiccant inside the shoe box and close the lid. All you do now is wait for the mushrooms to completely dry. This usually takes about two days but is not an exact science and is variable depending on other factors such as the density of the mushroom and the external environment. Once the mushrooms are cracker dry they are ready to be stored.
I personally do not like using this method. My results have been varied and sometimes I have ended up having to throw my mushrooms away because they have started to go mouldy. For that reason I would not recommend using the shoe box method. To summarise:
– Very cheap and convenient
– Doesn’t always work
– Possibility of wasting all your mushrooms
– Takes quite a long time to dry the mushrooms and so will not lock in as many of the nutrients.
For this method all you need is an oven and some baking parchment. Simply put the oven on the lowest temperature that it can go, pop your mushrooms on the baking parchment, on an oven tray, and slide into a low down shelf in the oven. An important point here is that you do not shut the oven door while the mushrooms are in there. The reason for this is to prevent the temperature getting too hot. We are not looking to cook the mushrooms. We only want to dehydrate them. Over a certain temperature you will start degrading compounds in the mushrooms and they will lose some of there medicinal potency.
The process usually takes about two hours. It goes without saying that you need to be around and keeping a close eye during this process as you have the oven on. Once the mushrooms are cracker dry leave them to cool completely before storing.
I like this method for the simplicity and because you don’t have to buy any extra equipment. The other benefit is that it is fairly quick. The compromise is that it is inevitable that you will be destroying some of the medicinal properties of the mushrooms in the process which seems like a bit of a waste. I would still recommend this method for someone drying mushrooms for the first time that does not want to spend any money.
– Very cheap and convenient
– Reasonably quick process
– Efficiently dehydrates the mushrooms
– Have to be present during the process
– Some loss of beneficial compounds is inevitable
For the fan method all you need is a fan, an absorbant material to lay your mushrooms on like kitchen towel and a work surface that you can lay all your mushrooms on. Simply point the fan to blow over the mushrooms which helps wick the moisture away faster in the same way your washing dries faster outside when there is a breeze. The problem with this method is it can still take quite a while to get your mushrooms “cracker dry” and the mushrooms have a tendency, as they dry and become lighter, to blow off your work surface. For these reason’s I would not recommend using the fan method as I have found it takes a long time for the mushrooms to completely dry out.
– Cheap (if you already have a fan)
– Not very efficient
– Risk not being able to dry the mushrooms out sufficiently
If you have a fan you can use the fan method in conjunction with the oven method and point the fan to blow into the open oven. This does two things. Firstly it dries the mushrooms out faster by helping to wick any moisture away. Secondly it keeps the mushrooms cooler which helps with lessening any degradation of the compounds as discussed in the outline for the oven method.
This brings us on to the last (and best) method!
Food dehydrator’s are designed to carry out the exact job of dehydrating and drying our mushrooms. This makes them the perfect way to prepare your mushrooms for long term storage. They can be bought fairly inexpensively on Amazon new or you could hunt out a bargain on the likes of Ebay. Like all pieces of technology there is quite a price range. You have to decide how much you will be drying at a time and how often you will be using the dehydrator to ascertain how much you want to spend. If you are buying your dehydrator to use just for drying mushrooms then I would recommend something like this:
How To Dry Mushrooms
If you are going to use it for all manner of things such as drying out fruit and making your own beef jerky then you might want to splash out a little more.
Dehydrators are extremely efficient at drying out your mushrooms and do it without raising the temperature to a point at which beneficial compounds will get denatured. The process takes anywhere from 4 to 8 hours at 45 degrees C depending on the size of the mushrooms and whether you have sliced them first (4 hours for 1/4 inch slices). Make sure the mushrooms are cracker dry before leaving to cool completely and removing for storage. In summary:
– Efficiently does the job
– You do not need to keep watch during the process
– No degradation of medicinal compounds
– You need to invest in the equipment unless you have one lying around
How to store mushrooms once you have dried them
Once you have dried your mushrooms using your method of choice from the above options it is time to store them. All you need is an airtight container of some sort. Whether that is a plastic container with a sealable lid, glass container with a sealable lid or a freezer bag with a ziplock it does not really matter. The important factor is that the container is airtight.
The next step is to find a cool dark dry place to keep your mushrooms. Warmth, sunlight and moisture are your enemies when storing dried mushrooms. This is because of the exact reasons we dried the mushrooms out for preservation in the first place (hint – that is the environment in which bacteria will develop and multiply!)
You can also store your dried mushrooms in the freezer. Make sure you freeze in quantities that you wish to use once you take your mushrooms out from the freezer. You don’t want to be thawing and then refreezing!
How long will your mushrooms last when dried
Your mushrooms will be good in the fridge for about a week tops. Once you have dried them and stored them properly they will be good for 6 months to a year. Maybe even longer. This means you have extended the shelf life by a factor of at least x24. Not bad!
What other options are there for preserving mushrooms
The main other options available are freezing from fresh and pickling. We won’t go into these options in this article but in certain cases these options may be worth exploring.